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Volume 71, Issue 11, Tuesday, September 6, 2005


Campus adapts to new faces

Cougars asked to help in any way possible

By Jessica Robertson 
Senior Staff Writer

Displaced students from areas affected by Hurricane Katrina will soon have a new academic home at UH. Parking and overcrowding are concerns with more than 31,500 commuter students already on campus, but Provost Donald Foss said he hopes for a smooth transition.

Foss met with university presidents last week to discuss his plan of action to allow displaced students to take classes at UH as well as three other UH System schools.

"There will be extra people on campus, and there will certainly be extra cars on campus," he said. "My request to our students is if a new face appears in your course, volunteer your notes or textbook. Show them around, and embrace new students on campus. We could be in their shoes, and we'd want people to use the Golden Rule with us."

Faculty, staff and students across campus responded quickly to the news of universities along the Gulf Coast closing. The Faculty Senate unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday to offer their services to displaced students, and the Office of Admissions extended its hours last week to process applications.

Displaced students lined the halls of the first floor of the E. Cullen Building, and by Friday evening, 474 refugee students had enrolled at UH. 

"That's a nontrivial number of students, and we're still registering as we speak," Foss said. "How many we will end up with, I don't know, but we're working to accommodate them."

Aramark, the campus's food service provider, gave free food to the students as they waited to enroll.

Foss said 90 law students from Tulane and Loyola as well as a group of faculty from Loyola will use the Law Center. He has worked with college deans and department chairs to increase caps on some undergraduate classes.

"Faculty members have been remarkably responsive," he said. "We may create special sections of high-demand courses. We are prepared to spend some money to do that." 

Students from several programs including optometry, pharmacy and social work plan to donate their services to victims of Katrina who have been evacuated to Houston. The not-so-distant memory of Tropical Storm Allison's damage to the campus in 2001 has many students feeling empathetic.

"If there's any way we can help, big or small, we should," political science junior Ben Whitmore said. "If I was in that situation and I had to go to Tulane so that I didn't lose a semester, I'd want them to open their arms to me."

Despite potential inconveniences such as traffic congestion and packed classrooms, Whitmore said he will welcome displaced students to the campus without hesitation. 

"The campus is already crowded, and parking is pretty hectic, but we're lucky," Whitmore said. "All we have to worry about is where we have to park, but they have to worry about where to live for the next three months. They need to realize that this issue is bigger than any minor inconvenience we might have."

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